Garam masala is a ground spice blend commonly used in Indian cuisine. It adds aroma and flavor to a dish depending on when you add it. But do you know that there is no set recipe for garam masala?
Keep reading to learn more about the variety of ingredients you can find in a garam masala recipe and how it influences the dish. We have also done an extensive research to bring you the best garam masala you can buy online in India from top brands like TATA, Aashirvaad, Everest, and more.
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Our buying guide below will help you choose the right garam masala for your needs. Keep reading to learn more about the ingredients, packing style, shelf life, and more. You can use the information in this section later while shopping from our top 10 list.
You can also find some companies adding turmeric, chilli, and ginger powder to garam masala—the ingredients that differentiate curry powder from garam masala. These can make a dish spicy and colorful. Some companies also add salt and asafoetida to their garam masala. Both act as flavor enhancers, with asafoetida adding an onion-garlic flavor.
Some of the flavor profiles in readymade garam masala are - Stone flower has a woody fragrance and doesn't have any taste of its own but adds a peculiar flavor to the dish. Allspice gives notes of cardamom, clove, nutmeg, and pepper, while ajowan adds a bitter taste. If you want to add minty notes, go for one that has bay leaves.
An ingredient to look out for in garam masala is cassia, also known as Chinese cinnamon. It is of lower quality than the much sought after Ceylon cinnamon. Cassia contains high levels of a compound called coumarin, which is known to cause liver damage. So if you use garam masala daily, check the ingredients list to make sure that it doesn't contain cassia.
Companies may grind spices in high-speed roller mills. The disadvantage of this process is that the heat generated can destroy the natural oils present in the spices, which give them their signature properties. Some companies even include preservatives and anti-caking agents, which may cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to them.
If you choose garam masala sabut or whole garam masala pack, you can grind them at home using a stone grinder or a mortar and pestle. This will preserve the natural goodness of the spices since there is no heat generated that can destroy the natural oils and their nutritious value. Another benefit of choosing whole garam masala is, you get to choose the ingredients you want to grind.
For example, bay leaves can give minty hints to a dish. If the one you are preparing doesn't require such flavors, you can leave bay leaves out while grinding the spices. Whole spices also don't lose their aroma and flavor as quickly as ground spices, giving you the flexibility of grinding them as and when required.
As you already know, it's not just the flavor that matters when it comes to garam masala, but also the aroma. That's why it is added at the final stage of cooking. Companies also take extra care to ensure that the masala retains all its properties even after the packet is opened.
For example, TATA Sampann garam masala comes in five sachets. You only have to transfer 20 grams at a time to your own airtight container while the rest of the sachets can be stored away safely. Some companies like Aashirvaad provide their garam masala in resealable zip-lock bags, so you store them in a refrigerator without taking up much space.
Companies like Cafe Junyali, Nutty Yogi, and Natureland Organics provide garam masala in glass containers. They are airtight and eliminates the need for transferring the contents to one of your own. We recommend buying a product that strikes a balance between the quality of ingredients and your storage needs.
Normally, pre-ground and whole garam masala have a shelf life of 12 months. But this can go down significantly if you don't store it properly. Both types should be stored in airtight containers to preserve their aroma and flavor.
Although whole spices don't lose their properties as quickly as ground ones, it is still recommended to follow strict storage practices. You also have the option of storing them in the resealable zip-lock bags they come in. But they won't be as efficient as containers.
It is also recommended to avoid handling whole spices with wet hands to prevent mold growth. Garam masala extract can retain its properties longer as there is minimal contact with air every time to open the bottle. You find out more about it in the next section.
Garam masala drops contain the original aroma and flavor of spices as it is a blend of spice extracts. You can use it in a marinade or the last stage of cooking. Adding a drop or two after you turn off the flame can also make your dish smell and taste good. There are several benefits to using garam masala drops instead of powder.
The best of all is the convenience factor. Instead of grinding spices (if you make garam masala at home) or measuring the powder using a teaspoon, you just have to add the required number of drops to the dish and stir it. The quantity or the number of drops may differ from one brand to another. For example, one drop of Spice Liquid's garam masala drops is equivalent to 1/4 tsp of ground spices.
Drops are also convenient for adding them to tea for drinking masala chai. But take a look at the ingredients list for the presence of salt, asafoetida, or chilli, as these are not acceptable ingredients for masala chai. Since drops have a lesser chance of coming into contact with air, their aroma stays preserved longer.
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Garam Masala With Natural Oils
Five Separately Packed Sachets to Preserve Aroma and Flavor
Let's Go Nuts
Set of 15 Aromatic Whole Garam Masala Spices Combo
Whole Garam Masala to Stone Grind at Home
Sawantwadi Garam Masala
Hand Ground to Preserve the Natural Flavor and Aroma
Garam Masala Powder
Contains Rose Petals That Has Antiviral, Antibacterial and Antiseptic Properties
Organic Garam Masala Powder
Organic Garam Masala With Rock Salt for the Health Conscious
Shahi Garam Masala
Comes in a Resealable Zip Lock Pouch
With the Goodness of Triphala
Super Garam Masala Powder
Red Chilli and Turmeric Add Flavor and Color to Your Dish
Garam Masala Drop
1 Drop Equals 1/4 Tsp of Ground Spices
Jumbo Pack for Restaurants
Spices quickly lose their aroma and flavor when exposed to air. TATA Sampann's 100-gram pack of garam masala comes in five sachets. You only have to use a 20-gram pack at a time while the contents of other sachets are well preserved. Apart from the other usual ingredients, it also contains turmeric powder, salt, and asafoetida.
If your dish requires these ingredients, taste and check the aroma while cooking, so you don't end up adding too much of it. Some special ingredients in Tata Sampann are ajowan and allspice. Ajowan is bitter, highly fragrant, and has a strong flavor. Allspice is made from the dried berries of a plant named Pimenta dioica and has flavors similar to cardamom, clove, nutmeg, and pepper.
If you want to stone grind your own garam masala at home, buy this pack of whole spices from Let's Go Nuts. It contains 15 aromatic spices that you can stone or machine grind at home according to your needs. You only have to take the required amount of spices from the zip-lock bag, thus the aroma and flavor of the rest are preserved.
The 725-gram pack is suitable for home use as well as restaurants. Bay leaves, known for imparting a minty flavor, are also present in this pack. Find out if the dish you are preparing calls for bay leaves; otherwise, you can leave it out while grinding the ingredients. Customer reviews show that the spices are clean and aromatic.
If you are looking for an authentic homemade garam masala, this one is for you. Junyali Sawantwadi Garam Masala is hand pounded by Neeta Shirodkar, one of the many homemakers who are empowered and enjoy financial freedom by selling their products through Junyali. It is a bit on the spicy side with red chillies and black pepper.
Some special ingredients include khus khus (poppy seeds), nagkeshar, and asafoetida. Khus khus adds a slightly nutty flavor with mild spicy notes, while asafoetida gives an onion-garlic taste and Nagkeshar has a woody aroma with subtle citrusy and bitter notes. We recommend this garam masala for preparing veg and non-veg dishes alike.
Nutty Yogi garam masala is a blend of 20 unique spices that includes special ingredients like rose petals and stone flower. Rose petals are known for their antiviral, antibacterial, and antiseptic properties. It can be intensely aromatic, mildly spicy, and can impart a citrusy tartness to the dish.
Stone flower present in it can add a woody aroma to your dishes. The masala comes in an airtight glass container, so you don't have to search for any new jars for transferring the contents. Nutty Yogi garam masala is roasted in low heat to mimic the flavors of traditionally prepared garam masalas.
Natureland Organics garam masala powder is a mixture of organic spice powders. It has coriander, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, dried ginger, bay leaves, fenugreek leaves, cardamom, red chillies, cloves, nutmeg, mace, and rock salt. The fenugreek leaves present in it have a bitter taste with a slightly sweet aroma.
Normally salt is not an ingredient in garam masala, but we can find it in many garam masalas anyway. But this product contains rock salt, which is an even more healthy variant that contains trace minerals necessary for our body. For the health-conscious, you can be relieved as it contains real cinnamon instead of the lower quality cassia and nutmeg and mace that has a warm and nutty flavor.
Aashirvaad Shahi Garam Masala is a mixture of ten different spices: coriander, cumin, black pepper, bay leaves, cloves, cassia, cardamom, star anise, mace, and nutmeg. It also contains iodized salt, so check the taste before adding salt separately. The masala comes in a resealable zip-lock pouch, so you don't need a separate container for storing it.
One drawback may be the presence of cassia (Chinese cinnamon), which is lower in quality compared to cinnamon. Cassia contains a comparatively large amount of a compound called coumarin that may harm your liver. So if your daily diet requires the use of garam masala, it's better to stay away from this product.
The special ingredient present in this garam masala is Triphala, a blend of amalaki, bibhitaki, and haritaki. It is anti-inflammatory properties, aids in weight loss, and has a mild laxative property. In terms of the flavor, it is sweet, sour, pungent, and astringent. Hence, it goes well with the other ingredients in this garam masala.
It also has common salt and chilli, which can enhance the taste and color of the dish. It contains cassia, which is a type of cinnamon of lower quality. Customer reviews show that the product is spicy because of the presence of chilli, black pepper, and dry ginger.
Catch Super garam masala is made by grinding spices at a low temperature. This ensures that the natural goodness and nutritious value of the spices are preserved. It contains iodized salt, chilli, capsicum, turmeric, and bay leaves that can enhance the flavors and color of your dish.
We recommend experimenting with the spicy ingredients in your dish the first time you use this garam masala, as it contains chilli powder. You may also want to reduce the amount of salt you normally add to your dish. Keep in mind that the bay leaves present in it can add a slightly minty flavor, so if your dish doesn't call for such a flavor, avoid using this garam masala.
Spice Liquid garam masala drops is a potent blend of spice extracts. It retains all the goodness and authenticity of spices with one drop equaling 1/4 teaspoon of ground spices. Since it is a blend of extracts, adding it at the beginning of cooking to impart a smoky flavor to the dish may not work, as the aroma and flavor may quickly evaporate.
But it is apt for use at the last stage of cooking while preparing dals, vegetable dishes, chat dishes, and savory dishes. It contains chilli extract too, so adjust other spicy ingredients in your dish accordingly. The product is convenient to use and saves space in the kitchen.
If you own a restaurant, you may find the need for significant quantities of garam masala every day, and this 1 kg pack from Hathi will serve the purpose. The flavor profile is unique with ingredients like chili, dry mango, salt, and Indian gooseberry. Chilli makes your dish spicy and adds color to it, while salt enhances the overall taste.
The presence of dry mango and Indian gooseberry gives the garam masala notes of sourness and bitterness, making it suitable for stews, soups, and vegetable dishes. Make sure to store it in an airtight container to prevent loss of aroma and flavor.
Did you buy whole spices to make your own garam masala at home? Then you should know that there is more than just blending the ingredients. Watch the video to learn the very few processes involved in making your own aromatic and flavorful garam masala at home. Find out:
Salt is a necessary ingredient in numerous recipes. And basmati rice and atta have their own place in the daily diet of people in India. Read our buying to learn more about the various varieties of salts, basmati rice, and atta and how to choose one depending on your needs. We also have a top 10 list featuring the best products you can buy online in India.
Choosing pre-ground garam masala can be a bit confusing if you don't know the type of flavor each ingredient imparts. You can either consult your elders in the family or experiment on your own to find out which product works for the dishes you normally prepare.
Always check the ingredients list for salt, asafoetida, chilli, and turmeric, as these ingredients can impact how your dish will turn out to be. Remember to go for resealable zip-lock bags or sachets to prevent loss of aroma and flavor. You can also consider buying whole garam masala spices for the flexibility of choosing and grinding only the required ingredients best suited for your dishes.
Author - Arun F Xaviour
No. 1: TATA Sampann｜Garam Masala With Natural Oils
No. 2: Let's Go Nuts｜Set of 15 Aromatic Whole Garam Masala Spices Combo
No. 3: Junyali｜ Sawantwadi Garam Masala
No. 4: Nutty Yogi｜Garam Masala Powder
No. 5: Natureland｜Organic Garam Masala Powder
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